Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1 Tablet Is an Effective Laptop Replacement

REVIEW: Dell’s new Latitude 5290 business tablet is really a laptop replacement and it’s a worthy competitor to Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet.

Dell Latitude 5290 tablet

The new Dell Latitude 5290 is what Microsoft’s Surface Pro could have been, but wasn’t. It’s a fast, sleek 2-in-1 tablet that can take the place of your laptop.

It’s also a powerful Windows 10 computer with an available Intel i7 processor, up to 16 GB of memory and SSDs up to 1 terabyte. It comes with a 12-inch full HD screen.

The Latitude 5290 weighs in at 1.89 pounds, which is slightly heavier than the Surface. Most configurations of this computer ship with what Dell calls their travel keyboard. This keyboard closely resembles the keyboard found on Apple’s iPad Pro in its feel and key travel.

The rear of the keyboard is raised about a half-inch higher than the front edge when it’s in use, which provides a more comfortable typing position. It’s easy to type fairly fast on the Dell’s keyboard.

The IT staff will love the security features and options on this computer. It supports facial recognition using Microsoft’s Hello. It’s also got an optional fingerprint reader and there’s an optional slot for a smart card reader. The i7 models get USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3. The other models still have USB-C ports along with a USB 3.1 Type A port.

The Latitude that Dell sent to eWEEK for this review had an Intel i5 8350 processor that runs at 1.7 GHz. We had 8 GB of memory and a 256 GB SSD.

The review unit didn’t have the typical square impression to the right of the touchpad where the fingerprint reader would normally live. On the Latitude that spot is on the back of the unit where it comes easy to your hand if you grasp the tablet on the right side.

There are some other nice features. Dell has designed a sort of automatic kickstand for this tablet. While it resembles the kickstand on the back of the Surface, you can deploy it automatically by pressing the lower edge of the tablet against a hard surface. Dell also has a very nice active stylus that you can use in software designed for pen input such as Microsoft’s OneNote. I also found that the pen will work with Microsoft Word 2016 to make handwritten notes and drawings.

This 2 in 1 Doesn’t Sit Comfortably on the Lap

It’s worth noting that like other tablets with flat keyboards, including the iPad Pro, actually using this device as a laptop—meaning on your lap—doesn’t work very well. The keyboard doesn’t have a lot of structural rigidity. So it flops around while you’re working. Move to a flat surface and it works just fine.

Working with the Latitude 5290 is straightforward, which is the best thing you can say about a business computer. It does nothing to get in the way of accomplishing your work. The keyboard is well designed for its type. It attaches to connectors at the bottom of the device with magnets. It folds down to the table in front of you while giving you a nice angle for typing. The touchpad is smooth and responsive and the front surface clicks when pressed, giving you the feel of a mouse button.

The typing action is comfortable. There’s limited travel to the keys, but it’s enough to provide good tactile feedback. It’s also programmed to avoid annoying glitches when your palm gets too close to the touchpad. Despite the thinness of the keyboard, it was at least as good as what I’ve found on some ultrabooks.

The touch screen on the Latitude 5290 is clear and bright. You get full high definition resolution and the colors are bright and clear. The images on the screen are extremely easy to see and text is very clear, which is important when you’re using a computer with a 12-inch screen. I had no problem reading documents, even when they have very small typefaces.

Choose options, configurations carefully

If there is a downside to the Latitude 5290, it’s the cost. The test unit would have cost about $1,900 and it’s not a fully-configured unit. If you had to purchase an i7 unit with 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of memory and you’d spend over $3,400 at full retail price. Fortunately Dell does have sales from time to time, so the actual purchase price when I wrote this review was about $2,373.

This computer is also one of those where the most important features are likely optional. So you need to carefully check your configuration selections while you’re ordering to make sure that you’re getting what you expect for the purchase price. Also be aware that not all features are available with all configurations, so for example you’ll need to get an i7 processor for your tablet if you feel you need Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Overall I enjoyed working with the Dell Latitude 5290. It’s a business-class 2-in-1 tablet that you won’t mind being seen with. The screen is big enough and clear enough to do real work. The keyboard and touch screen provide a seamless experience and the pen is actually more useful than I’d expected. This is the best of the 2-in-1 computers I’ve used and that includes the Surface and the iPad Pro. I wouldn’t mind traveling with the Latitude 5290 as my only computer and that’s not something I’d normally consider. 

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...